A WARWICKSHIRE farmer has been given six months to save his livelihood after inspectors discovered livestock being kept in appalling conditions.
A judge heard the suffering caused to David Letherbarrow’s animals was not said to be wilful or malicious, but that he was ‘simply incompetent’ at the time.
The 50-year-old, of Springfield Farm, Oxhill, was given a 24-week suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to eight animal welfare offences and six breaches of various regulations.
Magistrates also disqualified him from owning or keeping animals for five years but during an appeal against the disqualification, which has not yet been enforced, his barrister Sam Skinner told Warwick Crown Court it would take his livelihood away and prevent him running the farm that had been in his family for generations.
Kevin Saunders, prosecuting for Warwickshire County Council, said the case began with visits to Springfield Farm by trading standards officers in November 2012 and February 2013.
He told the court how Letherbarrow was given advice regarding the welfare of livestock and also highlighted four dates between January and April 2013 where the deaths of bovines were not registered with the British Cattle Movement Service.
Trading standards officer Zoe Putnam collated ‘fallen stock receipts’ from the Warwickshire Hunt kennels showing it had received a number of carcasses from the farm over previous weeks.
But cross-checks showed the deaths had not been reported within the time limits and investigations began.
The next eight offences – four of which concerned Letherbarrow’s failure to provide well-maintained dry bedding in the cattle sheds – came to light when the farm was inspected in March and April 2013.
Mr Saunders told the court how Letherbarrow was served with an improvement notice but failed to comply with it and on a subsequent visit, the situation was said to be much the same.
Other charges related to his failure to provide an adequate diet to two bovines, one of which had died at the farm and another that had to be put down.
He also failed to provide dry bedding for pigs and to take steps to prevent livestock and birds coming into contact with carcasses of cattle and sheep pending consignment or disposal.
Mr Skinner admitted Letherbarrow had been badly affected by his mother’s death in 2008, particularly because farm duties had prevented him visiting her in hospital the day before she died.
So after his father suffered a stroke around the time of the offences in 2013, he prioritised hospital visits fearing the same thing would happen.
Mr Skinner pointed out there had been no repeat of the incidents since then and said Letherbarrow had drastically reduced the number of animals so he could cope better with running the farm alone.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano, who was sitting with two magistrates, ordered Letherbarrow to return in six months with a full report showing things were operating as they should.